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Assessment of neural activity in the specific brain area is critical for understanding the circuit mechanisms underlying altered brain function and behaviors. A number of immediate early genes (IEGs) that are rapidly transcribed in neuronal cells in response to synaptic activity have been used as markers for neuronal activity. However, protein detection of IEGs requires translation, and the amount of newly synthesized gene product is usually insufficient to detect using western blotting, limiting their utility in western blot analysis of brain tissues for comparison of basal activity between control and genetically modified animals. Here, we show that the phosphorylation status of eukaryotic elongation factor-2 (eEF2) rapidly changes in response to synaptic and neural activities. Intraperitoneal injections of the GABA A receptor (GABAAR) antagonist picrotoxin and the glycine receptor antagonist brucine rapidly dephosphorylated eEF2. Conversely, potentiation of GABAARs or inhibition of AMPA receptors (AMPARs) induced rapid phosphorylation of eEF2 in both the hippocampus and forebrain of mice. Chemogenetic suppression of hippocampal principal neuron activity promoted eEF2 phosphorylation. Novel context exploration and acute restraint stress rapidly modified the phosphorylation status of hippocampal eEF2. Furthermore, the hippocampal eEF2 phosphorylation levels under basal conditions were reduced in mice exhibiting epilepsy and abnormally enhanced excitability in CA3 pyramidal neurons. Collectively, the results indicated that eEF2 phosphorylation status is sensitive to neural activity and the ratio of phosphorylated eEF2 to total eEF2 could be a molecular signature for estimating neural activity in a specific brain area.
Yoon, S. H., Song, W. S., Oh, S. P., Kim, Y. S., & Kim, M. H. (2021). The phosphorylation status of eukaryotic elongation factor-2 indicates neural activity in the brain. Molecular Brain, 14(1). https://doi.org/10.1186/s13041-021-00852-0